Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Creating a Nursery Using Children's Literature

I've mentioned in earlier posts that our kids' room will feature an artistic design inspired by Eric Carle, the author of such classics as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Grouchy Ladybug

Carle's illustrations contain vibrant colors, complex textures and raw, choppy lines. He incorporates a variety of materials when creating a single subject, adding contrast and depth. 
From The Very Hungry Caterpillar

I wanted to decorate the room in this style without directly going with images from his stories. In order to attempt to replicate his style, I enlisted our 5-year old daughter.

While the design of the room will have a heavy Carle emphasis, I wanted to incorporate as much classic children's literature as possible.

Our first project involved a short poem by Shel Silverstein, "Listen to the Mustn'ts." You can do this with any phrase or quote.

- Blank canvas
- Acrylic paints
- Large paint brush or small roller brush (I prefer the small roller)
- Painters tape or adhesive vinyl
- Transfer tape (optional)
- Scissors or a die-cut machine (such as a Silhouette SD or Cricut, for cutting words or letters)

1. I typed the poem into my Silhouette SD and had it cut out using adhesive vinyl. You could also cut it out by hand using adhesive vinyl or blue painters tape.
This is the adhesive vinyl I bought for my Silhouette SD.

2. I placed the words on the blank canvas using transfer tape. (Note: If you're using adhesive vinyl, getting it to stick to the canvas can be cumbersome. Put a little elbow grease in it.)
Transfer Tape can be used whether you're using vinyl or painters tape in order to ensure your words aren't crooked, they're evenly spaced and placed just how you want them.

3. I chose a background color and applied it with a small roller brush. (I recommend using acrylic paint for this step, as you will see below.)

4. My daughter and I planned what the design would look like, then she used Crayola paints and fingerpainted the design over the background color and poem.

5. Once the paint dried, I used an X-acto knife to lift up the vinyl letters. Somehow, the Crayola water-based paints bled under the vinyl letters (which is why I really discourage the use of such paints for the background color), so I had to take a small paintbrush and white out little spots here and there afterwards. I couldn't even remove the vinyl letters spelling the author's name because the paint bled so much, so I left the vinyl there. 

After this project, my daughter and I sought to replicate something we saw at Ikea:
This Olunda piece is only $12.99, but we wanted to personalize it.

Ribba Shadow Box frame from Ikea ($9.99)
- Fine tip black marker
- paint (we used Crayola finger paints)
- glue stick
- Construction paper
- white paper (2 sheets - one for the actual painting and another to create the goldfish)
- thick foam tape

1. Using a fine tip marker, draw your fish tank and table line directly onto the glass.
2. On the white piece of paper (which should be the same size as the frame), I finger painted the outline of the water inside of the tank (using my eye to determine whether it would fit inside the tank outline on the glass), then had my daughter fill it in.
3. I painted the outline of the desk, then had my daughter fill it in.
4. I drew a goldfish on paper and then cut out the fish parts using orange construction paper. (I actually cut out individual scales.)
5. My daughter glued the fish parts onto the drawing of the fish. 
6. I cut the fish out, then taped it directly onto the "water" using thick foam tape.
7. Assemble the frame! (Note: When placing the glass in the frame, if your marker was not permanent, make sure the ink side is on the inside of the frame to prevent your image from being smeared or erased.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Urban Gardening: Our First Big Harvest

The idea of growing your own vegetables is very attractive - the amount of work you put in to boast that claim is... overwhelming!
After being on vacation for two weeks (post to follow - awesome activities to do in Oregon!), we came home to a largely overgrown mess of intertwined plants, weeds and bounty ready for the picking!
We came home yesterday afternoon and have (so far) spent 12 hours weeding, cleaning and harvesting.
Here are the fruits of our labor:
Roughly 3 lbs of regular and Italian green beans. (This kind of Italian bean grows meaty, rich-tasting, purple, and long beans. Many of the beans are at least 8 inches long!)

We've got more basil than we know what to do with (we'll dry most of it), peppers (for canning), and eggplants.

Our first batch of tomatoes (some of them broke off prematurely while pruning), lemons, and oregano.

Our pepperoncinis and Italian frying peppers.

Our squash (and lonely cucumber)... Wait, here's a better pic to describe how huge these things can get:
Most of these puppies are bigger than a dinner fork, which immediately makes me wonder... What on earth am I going to do with all this squash???

This is our third year gardening, so our skills have improved over time and allowed us to get to the point where we've got enough veggies to make the work worth it. Here's what we've learned so far:

  1. Knowing the quality of your soil (and improving it for certain plants using natural plant foods and fertilizers) is KEY! We've specifically sought out plant foods and fertilizers for the plants we've selected to improve the quality and health of each plant. 
  2. Plan before you plant! This not only includes the layout of your garden, but also researching which plants are compatible next to each other and how to plant your plants. 
    1. Before planting, my husband tests the soil (checking to see if it's too acidic for the plant or not), he digs a hole about 8 inches (12 for tomatoes) below the surface and places dry fertilizer at the bottom (for strong roots and healthy stems), and researches how to plant each plant. Then he puts a layer of soil between the fertilizer and the plant.
      1. For instance, tomato plants need strong bases to be able to hold those hefty tomatoes. So, my husband pinches off any branches or leaves growing at the base of the plant and places it deep into the ground. (Notice below how much of the tomato plant's stem is underground.)
    (From MoonGrow.com.)

    3. Put in the time! Weeds grow quickly and pests flock to your plants even faster. If something's eating your leaves, or if your leaves are turning yellow, curling in or out, getting mildew or if your blossoms are dying, do your research! Don't just give up on the plant! There are ways to keep your plant alive! Your local nursery can provide a wealth of information, and there are lots of gardening blogs and sites to refer to! Plan on checking on each plant DAILY! We have roughly 40 plants and spend around 6-8 hours a week in the garden. (If you have a watering system on a timer, this will reduce your time.)
If you're planning on gardening for the purpose of growing even half of your own produce, let go of the idea that gardening is like a hobby. If you want to yield reasonable results, you have to put in the time. Lots of time!